The Nikon D70

Carry your Nikon camera in Style.

The bag that I purchased for the Nikon D70.

My initial post about this camera was for an experiment into how important megapixels are.  This time around, I wanted to focus more on the camera itself and just have fun.  I took it down to the local park during autumn and shot a few pics.  The size of the CompactFlash card limits me to 11 pictures before it gets full.  The five best pictures are featured below.  If you want to see the first post I made regarding this camera, visit How Important are Megapixels?

Wooden footpath.

Picturesque view of a wooden footpath in downtown Bend, Oregon.

Just your typical mallard.

The mallard breed is common to Oregon in the warmer months before flying south for the winter.

This bird can normaly be found around parks where humans might provide food.

Considered the pest species, the Canada Goose can be an aggressive breed of waterfowl.

Candid view of a photographer at work.

Photographers can be found anywhere in the wild.

The changing of seasons in an urban park.

A wide shot taken to show an environment rather than a subject.

How Important are Megapixels?

There are times when cameras become lost and just need a good home, and if one can be found, people will often look to someone they personally know to take care of these cameras.  I was recently offered a small collection of cameras that I could not pass up, and in this trove that spanned several decades, was a Nikon D70.  This camera was one of the more modern cameras in the collection.  Though not as advanced as some of the cameras in my personal assortment, it still makes the perfect candidate for a new blog post.  One in which I ask the question: “How important are megapixels?”

What usually comes to your mind when you think of the standard for megapixels?  Is it the twelve megapixels that your iPhone 6s has?  Is it the 20 or so megapixels that your DSLR has?  Do you remember what images look like with 6 megapixels?  Well, let’s find out.

Just to add a note about this post, because of the size of the pictures, and the nature of the experiment, this blog entry will be best viewed on a computer or a tablet.

About the Camera

Released in 2004, the D70 was a direct competitor to Canon’s EOS 300D.  The camera has a 6.1 megapixel sensor (23.7 mm x 15.6 mm), an ISO range of 200-1600, can fire up to three frames per second, and uses CompactFlash as the storage medium.  As the first consumer-level DSLR released by Nikon, it debuted with a price point of $999 USD.  These days, they can be found online for various prices ranging from $70 to $500, all used of course.

I could tell, when I saw the camera, that it hasn’t been cared for in a while, and needed some love.  It had been floating in a plastic tote filled with other random camera gear, and was not in a protective bag.  It was dirty, and the rubber grips were quite sticky.  There was only one lens for it, and it was not the kit lens.  I think the previous owner bought only the body, and made a separate purchase of the lens.  The lens that came with it is a Sigma 28-300mm, that had a couple nasty scratches in the glass.

To care for the camera, I took to the body with a paper towel lightly saturated in Windex.  This allowed me to remove most of the dirt and dust.  The camera was about fourteen years old, and the rubber grips started to return to their liquid state, this left them extremely sticky.  I used a lint free cloth and isopropyl alcohol to clean them up.

I was concerned with the scratches on the lens.  One of the scratches (number one) actually shows up in the viewfinder.  The second scratch, though deeper, actually sits outside of the field of view.

Though this camera is not likely to become my workhorse camera, it still deserves some love and attention.  I have made investments in the form of a new battery, LensPen, and a Nikon brand bag to store it in.  I want the previous owners to know that this camera will be cared for.

The Setup

To conduct my experiment, I needed to pit this Nikon against a more modern camera.  I decided a fitting choice would be the Canon 70D.  That’s right, its the Nikon D70 vs the Canon 70D!  Now, I do realize that the Canon is a better camera by far, however, I should be able to create a controlled medium between the two formats.

The conditions for the experiment will need to be set around the Nikon’s functionality.  In order to pull this off, I’m going to need to capture the same image with both cameras.  I will need to use the same aperture, ISO, and exposure time.  I will also need to use similar lenses, and try to get the same focal length.  A tripod will be used.

Since the lowest ISO setting on the Nikon camera is 200, I will need to match that on the Canon.  The aperture will be set at 6.3 on both, and shutter speed set at 1/1000.  Since the only lens that I have for the D70 is a 28-300mm, the Canon camera will be using 70-300mm USM glass.

These settings were selected and based on the amount of light and what will be needed to get a good exposure.  Please leave a comment if you have any input regarding this process.

The Results

I chose to shoot a single photo that could capture focus, depth, color, and a little bit of shadow, all with natural sun light.  The next few pics in this blog are the two images shot with the cameras.  I hope you, the reader, are as surprised at the results as I am.  Clicking on the image will open the original photos, which will be quite large.  Want everyone to see the originals that I captured to get the most out of this experiment.  Later in the article, I will include a download button so readers can view the original RAW photos if they want to do their own comparisons.

The first image below shows the two pictures side by side and in their original size.  The Canon 70D with the 20 megapixels on the left, and the Nikon D70 with 6 megapixels on the right.

Megepixels can make a difference in image size.

Image on the left is shot with the Canon 70D. Image on the right with the Nikon D70. Click to enlarge.

It is entirely expected that a camera with 6 MP will shoot a smaller picture than a camera with 20 MP.  We know this, but we want to find out how important those megapixels are.  If you had the pictures separated, unlike the image above, and you opened them individually, you wouldn’t be able to see that they are two different sizes.  It isn’t until you set them next to each other in Photoshop, that you can see the difference in size.  What we need to do next, is scale the smaller picture up.

The 6 MP image (right) resized to match the 20 MP image.

The Nikon (right) image has been resized to match the same dimensions as the Canon (left) image. Click to enlarge.

Now we have the two pictures side by side, and the same size.  Even in this condition, the Nikon image still looks really good.  We can also get a glance at the bokeh of the image (leaves of the tree in the background), and the detail in both pictures.  The Nikon picture maintains a lot of detail even after being enlarged!  We’re going to need to zoom in on both pictures.

The right image is still enlarged, and both are zoomed in.

Zoomed in on the same images. The right one still enlarged. It’s easier to see the differences. Click to enlarge.

Above, the Nikon picture is still enlarged, and the two images are zoomed in.  This is when we finally start to see a difference.  The most noticeable difference seems to be with some anti-aliasing around the edges.  We can see this in the edges of the underside shadow, and the outer edge of the right talon.

The Conclusion

After setting up this experiment for my personal research, I have come to realize that the amount of megapixels doesn’t really matter.  You can still get a great picture on a camera that only has 6 megapixels.  I’m sure I could have done some light reading in a Google search to come up with the same answer, but the journey was about the experiment and research.  Sometimes it’s fun to have a project to spend a little time on.

Please leave a comment below, I would like to know if anyone else is surprised by these results or if they expected the same outcome.  I will be including a download button at the bottom of the article if anyone would like to examine the RAW images.  Thank you for reading.

 

For additional pictures that I took with this camera, visit The Nikon D70.

 

Click below for a download of the RAW images.

 

 

3D Printing for a Macro Shot

Ready to shoot.One of the things that I enjoy about shooting pics, is pursuing macro photography, not just the 1:1 shots, but aiming for a deeper magnification.  Having the lens pressed against the subject can block out a lot of light, and not having enough light to get your desired shot can be a real problem.  Often times, a creative solution might be needed to capture a good macro shot.  However, some subjects can be illuminated from underneath, and the following post is about one solution that I came up with.  In this blog entry, I will write about the equipment and methods that I used, and provide two examples.

 

 

This begins with finding another way to light up an object for macro photography, for this task I utilized a 3D printer.  The printer that I used is a 3D20 Idea Builder by Dremel.  I used 123D Design (no longer available) to plot a diagram of a frame that would hold the subject of the photo and light it from underneath.  The frame attaches to a tripod that allows me to point the camera straight down at the centerpiece.

 

3D-Print-6

 

The frame and mount were assembled with a combination of bolts and rivets.  There is a clamp that attaches the frame to the neck of the tripod, and from there, an arm extends downward to hold the light.  Any kind of standard sized light bulb can be used, but for creative purposes I like to use smart bulbs.  Smart bulbs allow someone to use a varied array of colors and brightness.  The bulb featured in this post is made by LIFX.

 

 

Simple storage for the macro kit as it is broken down.

I love to store things in cases. This case is setup for storing the macro photography kit. Here the kit is broken down and stored with the extension tube and light bulb.

 

The pictures below feature two images that were captured using this macro setup.  The first image is a picture of salt taken with a red light.  It is complemented with some slight vignetting.  The second picture, features a paper towel with a lavender light, and white boarder.  These pictures were taken with a Canon 70D, and the FotodioX macro extension kit that I used in a previous blog post.

 

Red Salt Web

Click to enlarge.

Lavender Paper Towel Web

Click to enlarge.

 

I hope people enjoy these particular pictures.  As always, please leave your thoughts and comments.

 

 

 

Too Many Photos?

Dealing with a full hard drive is just a matter of fact for a lot of computer users, even more so for people who take a lot of pictures. There are cameras everywhere, and as a result, this current generation is the most photographed generation. I have a certain level of experience in this area as I work in technical support for a living, and I am an amateur photography enthusiast. Failing to properly manage your photo storage will result in a full hard drive and leave you with a slow computer.

Nobody likes having a slow and sluggish computer. Managing the amount of pictures stored on your hard drive is just one way to avoid this. This article is going to address examples of poor photo storage, hardware that can help you manage storage, and software for creating backups.  If your computer’s hard drive disk is full because of too many pictures, this blog post is for you.

 

 

The biggest problem by far, with photo storage, is duplicate photos. I’m not just talking about duplicated pictures, but pictures with a lot of similarity.

 

Too many photos can take up a lot of storage space.

Be cautious when choosing which picture to keep.

 

The image above shows several pictures in a row that are not duplicates, but are all similar. These photos all provide the same information. There isn’t anything that one picture shows us that the other ones do not. This will turn into a problem for people who have this type of behavior. I have seen many computers that are storing over twenty-thousand pictures (yes that is 20,000) because of practices like this.  If your picture storage looks like this, you need to cut out the unnecessary photos.  Pick one of them, and get rid of the rest.  However, this may not be enough, you might need additional space if things are too out of control.

Managing digital photo storage does not need to be complicated.  One of the best options available is to use an external hard disk drive, or an external solid state drive.  External mass storage devices are becoming more affordable each year, and shouldn’t be expected to break the bank when purchasing one.  It is often advisable to store your data on more than one device.  If you are keeping all of your files on one external drive, it is not technically backed up.  If you really are cautious about your data, store it on more than one external drive.  I have four drives myself that store various bits of information.

Choosing the correct software to backup your data is just as important as having the hardware to store it.  There are plenty of choices whether you use a Mac or a PC.  Mac computers use an application called “Time Machine,” whereas a Windows computer uses “Windows Backup and Restore.”  Some external drives (Seagate, Western Digital, etc.) come with software that will back up your data for you.  However, such software will not be supported by Apple or Microsoft.  You can find links at the end of the article for information regarding Time Machine and Windows Backup and Restore.

I realize that this article was a little more tech-centric than usual, but it’s still relevant to the world of photography that we live in.  We need to put to use good practices with managing our photos.  A lot of this can be maintained at import.  Imagine sitting down at your computer and knowing that you have your pictures under control.  Don’t forget to check the links at the end of the article if you need help with your backups, and please leave comments if you have questions or contributions.

 

Click below for:

Time Machine

Windows Backup and Restore

 

May Flowers

It has been hard to find any inspiration lately as my place of employment has kept me well occupied. To remedy this, I decided to look around the web for some photography contest/competitions. My search revealed to me that my skills where not in the same league as the real photographers out there. Sometimes it’s best to forget about the serious competitions and take a picture for the sake of taking a picture.

Recently, I stumbled upon the concept to the “photography forum.” These types of websites provide an atmosphere conducive to the creativity of photography with a space that is free from the emphasis of competition. Therein I found the monthly challenge.

One such forum that I found is called PhoGro. The theme for the first monthly challenge that I participated in was flowers. I decided to dive right in since I don’t have much experience shooting flowers. Below is a collection of five floral pictures with different types of editing and camera angles.

The first picture is pretty simple.  I wanted to fill the image with red roses and present some depth of field.  I do, however, find this picture difficult to look at for too long because of the amount and brightness of the red tones.

Picture number two is one of my more favorite in this series.  I tried my hand at HDR toning to take a different approach with this one.  I also dropped the saturation down to five percent.  Some people might consider this passé, but I find it to be an easy picture to study.

Experimentation with contrasting colors was my goal with shot number three.  This was also the hardest one to edit.  I had to resort to using a creative filter to make this picture usable, though I do enjoy the vignetting.  It also wouldn’t be a normal blog post for me if I did not construct something to make one of my shots possible.  For this one, I purchased some white poster board and folded the sides inward to create a makeshift tray in which hold the rose petals.

Picture number four was the first picture that I shot in this series. I was sort of riffing with this one. Only one source of light was used, and that came from my iPhone. I snapped one shot of the flowers, then moved the light and took a second picture of the vase. These were later merged in Photoshop along with a third that is a close up of the flowers.

IMG_1106a

These three pictures were combined to create one of the images below.

The final picture is a typical macro shot. For this picture I used 12 images with extension tubes and implemented focus stacking techniques. I am getting better at macro shots and plan to do a blog entry for focus stacking.

There are a couple pictures from this set that I am pretty proud of. I am often times critical of my own work, however, that can be a motivator for improvement.  That being said, please feel free to comment and submit feedback.  As always, the pictures from this series are posted below.

Floral Image (1)

Image #1. f/5.6, 1/500, ISO-100

Floral Image 2

Image #2. f/18, 30/sec, ISO-100

Floral Image (3)

Image #3. f/18, 30 sec, ISO-100

Floral Image (4)

Image #4. f/3.5, 0.6 sec, ISO-100

Floral Image 5

Image #5. f/5.6, 1/5 sec, ISO-100.

The Pentax MX

The Pentax MX was a professional grade SLR (single-lens reflex) camera that was manufactured from the mid 1970’s to the mid `80’s.  It was often praised for it’s highly accurate light meter, but also suffered criticism for its ergonomic design.  The MX was regularly used as a starting camera for those who wanted to get into photography and learn the art, and often times, is still used as such today.

IMG_0488

 

This particular camera was purchased off a friend who found it at an estate sale.  My main reason for purchasing this camera from him was to experiment with film photography again.  I hadn’t fired off a roll of film since I was a teenager, so wanted to take step back and do this at least one last time, before it’s no longer possible to do so.

 

This peculiar camera though, needed some light maintenance.  Yes, that is also a pun, because I needed to replace the light seals on the opening hatch in the back.  The seals had basically melted away.  As you can see in the photo below, there is just a small amount of foam left over from the seals.  Surprisingly, there wasn’t any residue left behind.

No Seals

Before the seals were added.

New Seals Installed

After the seals were added.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It can be incredibly hard to find a place that can service a camera this old.  Unfortunately, nobody makes parts for cameras from this era.  This worried me a little when I found out that on top of there being no light seals, the light meter was no longer working.  I also had no idea about the conditions in which the camera was stored.  Temperature can do tricky things to a camera that sits idle for several years.  One of my biggest concerns pertaining to that, was lubrication.  After playing with the shutter button for a bit, I came to the conclusion that camera would not need to be lubricated.

 

After replacing the light seals, I decided to try some troubleshooting on the light meter.  A camera this old has very few electronic parts.  The vast majority of it is mechanical and will continue to function without batteries.  The batteries are only used to send power to the light meter, or send a signal across a wire to an off camera flash.  Luckily, there is a store in my town that specializes in batteries.  The manufacturer recommended batteries are no longer available today.  After acquiring a set of batteries that would be applicable, it was just a simple task of getting the light meter to work.  Below is a snip of the light meter from a PDF manual that I found online.

View Finder

When activating the light meter, assure that the green light is in the middle to produce accurate light levels in your photos.

 

The light meter was actually a simple fix.  I troubleshoot electronic devices for a living, and found out that the battery cap can actually be screwed in too tight.  Once I had the cap in the sweet spot, the light meter worked without fail.

 

With the repairs complete, the only task left ahead was to take it out and fire of a test roll.  The camera came with a few rolls of film that I could use.  All of them were Kodak color film at 400 ISO.  Naturally, I knew I would get some grain because I shoot all of my photos as close to 100 ISO as possible, but because of this, I could traverse town and gather lots of photos in variable light levels.  Below are a few photos from the initial test roll.  I didn’t take notes on the settings for the photographs, but most of them were around 60 or 125 for the shutter speed, and the aperture size varied between each picture taken.

Film Keeper 2Film Keeper 3

 

 

 

 

 

Film Keeper 1

 

I did very little touching up after scanning the photos.  I wanted to keep the natural grain from the film, because I enjoyed that appearance.  The only touching up I did was removal of some artifacts that rested between the photo and the glass of the scanner.

 

The initial test of this camera was very satisfying, and fun.  It was such a joy to drop off a roll of film and return after an hour of shopping to pick it up.  That is something I have not done in a long time, and plan on doing again.  Now that I know this camera works, I plan to put it through its paces.  The goal is to come up with a theme for a series that I can accomplish with this camera.  I want to thank you for reading this.  If you have any ideas I can use for a photo series to shoot with this camera, please leave a comment below.  You don’t need to have an account to leave a comment.  Heck, just leave a comment if you have any questions, or criticisms.

 

To see additional photos that I have taken with this camera, visit Fun with the Pentax MX.

 

 

Time-Lapse Exposures

Time-lapse photography (a technique which has been around for a while) is used to compress, express, and convey a sense of the passage of time.  The digital age seems to have ushered in new fundamentals regarding time-lapse photography.  The introduction of video editing programs have allowed people to string together mass amounts of time-lapse photos to show the compression of time in small video clips.  A more old school approach would simply involve setting up the camera and leaving the shutter open for a determined amount of time.  This blog will focus on my experimentation with this technique and along the way I will discuss the principals I used for setting up my equipment and present the results at the end.

 

The equipment used for this project was pretty easy to find.  The most obvious piece of equipment needed is the tripod.  Aside from that, I did employ the use of a neutral density filter (ND Filter).  An ND Filter is used to regulate the amount of light that passes through a lens.  The model that I have, allows me to reduce the light by about 8 stops.  It is essentially like putting a pair of sunglasses on the lens of your camera.  Blocking out this much light allows us to take longer timed exposures.  Pictured below, is a model made by Promaster.

ND-FilterThe filter is adjusted by rotating an outer ring.  It is wise to set up your equipment with the filter set to its most clear setting.  This will allow you to adjust your focus and make judgements for the rest of your settings.  Once you have your subject framed up, you can rotate the ring to block out the amount of light you feel would be appropriate and start firing off photos.  The camera needs to remain absolutely still when taking the pictures.  To help with this, it would be a good idea to set a timer or use a remote to avoid slight bumping of the camera when depressing the shutter button.  I used a remote made by Insignia for most of this project.

 

Pipe-SetupFor the first photograph in this project, I happened upon an unusual water fountain that features two pipes spilling water into a basin.  I saw this as the perfect opportunity to use the ND Filter that has been burning a hole in my camera bag for the longest time.  This was my first time using the ND Filter and took quite a while to get my settings correct.  I knew that I wanted to capture the water in motion, not just the water spilling out of the pipes, but also the movement of the water in the basin.  This is where the ND Filter performs as intended.  I was able to take longer exposures in bright daylight without too much worry towards over exposing the photo.  This photo was shot at high-noon, so I used the lowest ISO setting I could get for the least amount of grain, and a relatively high f-stop because I really didn’t want a lot of depth of field.  When shooting a time-lapse of rushing water, I chose to shoot it as a flat image.  I felt it would be best to have the entire photo in focus, and depth of field would blur out some of the motion.  That would have detracted from the over-all goal for this photograph.  This picture probably turned out to be the best one in this series.  For the other photos in this series, though, I had different goals in mind.

 

The rest of the photos in this series were taken at night.  Two of them have an urban feel, and one of them was taken of the north star from an observatory.  I don’t have any pictures to illustrate the setup for these photos and I do apologize for that.  Figure b. (below) is a different type of time-lapse photo.  It is actually a composite of two images.  I took a picture of my home town before sun down, then I waited till there was an appropriate level of darkness and fired off a time-lapse photo.  When layered in photo shop later, it presents a brighter view of the city horizon and still captures that night time feel.  This is especially useful if there is a lot of traffic to capture in the time-lapse, but traffic was pretty slow the night I took that photo.

In figure c, I took a long exposure of traffic from an overpass.  My main goal was to capture the motion of tail lights on a busy highway.  I was alone this night and was passed by several drunk pedestrians.  I was actually a little worried about how expensive my camera may have looked.

Figure d. is a much longer exposure of the night time sky.  I trained by camera on the North Star because this is the only star in the sky that does not move.  Astronomy has been a long time interest of mine and the local observatory is one of our best attractions.  Notice elements of light pollution in the lower right corner.

I want to thank everyone for taking the time to read this blog entry.  The final photographs from the project will be below this paragraph.  Please take a look at them, leave comments, questions, and criticisms.  Thank you.

 

Pipes

“Fig. A.” f/22, 15 sec, ISO 100

 

City Lights

“Fig. B.” Composite image, no settings.

Road

“Fig. C.” f/5.6, 118 sec, ISO 100.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stars

“Fig. D.” f/4.5, 1004 sec, ISO 100.

 

 

Macro Photography, Bulb Filament

My goal for this first experiment was to accomplish a couple of macro photographs.  In making this decision, I chose to shoot the filament of a light bulb under low power.  I encountered some limitations along the way, but was rather pleased with the outcome overall.

 

All-The-Pieces-Macro-Bulb

Pictures depicting set-up are taken with my iPhone.

My first stop was the hardware store to pick up the supplies that I would need to make this shoot happen.  I knew that in order to accomplish my goal, I would need to set up something low-profile.  A regular lamp just wouldn’t do, it would sit too high on the counter that I am using, I would need to build my own lamp.  All in all, the items I needed cost around $90.  I could have saved about $30 if I already had the wire cutters and electrical tape.  Cost was one of the few limitations when completing this project.  Not every project is going to be cheap though.  After all, building the props you need are only half the fun of the shoot.

 

 

Unit-Assembled-Macro-Bulb

Assembled project.

 

Macro-Bulb-Dimmer-SwitchThe dimmer switch is paramount to this shoot.  This allowed me to control the amount of light being put out by the bulb and gave me the option I desired for exposure settings.

 

 

 

Macro-Bulb-Subject

Lowest setting I could get to with the dimmer switch.

 

Macro-Bulb-Extension-KitNext up, I needed to place an order for a macro tube kit.  This kit allows a photographer to increase the distance between the lens and the camera’s sensor, thus increasing the magnification of the subject being photographed.  They aren’t always as complex as this model is.  Some of them are very simple and have no internal components.  I chose this set because it allowed me to maintain control of the auto focus, and the size of the aperture.  This particular kit is made by FotodioX and costs around $48 from B&H.

 

 

 

When it came to the lens, I decided to keep things simple and used a standard 18-55mm kit lens that came with an old Canon T5i.

Lens-and-Kit-Attached

The above picture shows all the equipment combined. As you can see, the extenders rest between the camera body and the lens.

Standard-18-55mm-Kit-Lens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Macro-Bulb-ShootingAnother limitation that I ran into, was trying to get the lens as close to the filament as possible.  As you can tell in this picture, the bulb itself created a big obstacle that I could not get around.  If I moved it any further away from the lens than this, my camera would not be able to focus on the subject.

 

 

 

 

 

When all is said and done, this really wasn’t a very hard project to complete.  It required very little effort and time.  I did have to spend a little cash to complete the project thought; but, in the end, I came out with some custom images that I didn’t have to pay for.  I didn’t actually get to take very many pictures this time around, but I did I get three images that I do enjoy.  I will put those at the bottom of this article.  If you could have done this project, what would you have done differently?  Please leave a comment below.

 

Light Bulb Macro 1IdeasLight Bulb Macro 2