Tuesday, 24 February 2009

My Nikon D80 two years on

The camera continues to behave impeccably, not a missed beat in nearly 24,000 frames (still shooting at 1,000 frames a month). The battery indicator still reads '0' (on scale 0 to 4, where 0 is factory fresh and 4 is 'replace now'). I've lost the viewfinder eyepiece, which fell off when I was cycling with the camera around my neck.

I'm still learning to use features after two years! The camera is so packed with advanced technology that the user's manual still needs to accompany me wherever I go. Every now and then I stumble upon some more useful features which I then add to my technical repertoire.

The 18-200mm lens - two issues, one fixed. I noticed a growing unwillingness of the lens to autofocus to infinity at longer focal lengths. Googling this, I found a chap on a forum who'd identified the solution. Screw the inner ring around the face of the lens back in - it has worked itself loose (there are two notches in the ring that help you do this). The second issue is the rubber grip on the zoom barrel. This had started to part company with the lens. The rubber had stretched, and was too slack to glue back in position. The only solution was to remove it altogether and replace with Royal Mail issue red elastic bands with which the streets of West London are paved. The red rubber look makes the lens look like one of Canon's deluxe lenses.

This past year I've acquired an SB600 speedlight flashgun. Looking at all the pics I've taken with it, I see one common factor - they've all been taken for work. Used together with the Nikkor 80-400mm lens, I'd say it's too weak to light distant talking heads (what I use the flash for mostly - conference shots). I should have gone for the more powerful SB800, but when I bought it I didn't yet have access to the 80-400mm lens. The SB600 is a versatile and intelligent piece of kit.

And on to the much-written about (on this blog) 80-400mm lens. It's big and magnificent and is excellent for wildlife, aviation and conference photos. Drawbacks are but three. Its autofocus is slow. I missed a shot of a hare in full pelt as it couldn't latch onto the subject fast enough. The autofocus is noisy (wzzzzZZZZZ) and it consumes much more battery power than the lighter 18-200mm zoom. Otherwise, I'd say its optics are better than the 18-200mm, less vignetting, no pincushion or barrel distortion. The lens has vibration reduction, which is absolutely necessary given its long focal length (equivalent to 600mm on a 35mm film camera).

Changing lenses is a chore when in the field (especially in sub-zero temperatures with gloved hands), and when the lens is off, dust and moisture can get onto the sensor, leaving visible marks on the photograph. A second body would be a good idea...

Since last year, Nikon has released the D90, with a 3" screen, 12.2 megapixel sensor, the ability to shoot high definition video, a device that shakes particles off the sensor, and a preview feature ('Live View') that allows you to see the image on the screen before you release the shutter, like on point-and-shoot digital compacts. Until recently, it was actually cheaper in the UK than the price I paid for the D80 (in kit with 18-135mm lens). The D90 comes in a kit with 18-105mm VR lens, less focal range, but with vibration reduction. With a weaker pound, the price has gone up, and you'll no longer be able to buy for just £620.

This time last year:
My Nikon D80 one year on

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