My Gear

Sure, anybody want to know it, but in most cases the equipment used has nothing to do with the final image. You can create great images with ordinary equipment, analog or digital. You just have to learn how to use your gear and to see motives. It's still the photographer who activates the shutter, there is no automatism for making great images just because you own great gear. Sorry.

Nearly the same is true concerning Megapixels. Of course it is sexy to have tons of Megapixels, but if the builtin plastic-lens does not have the necessary quality or if the last bit of sharpness gets lost due to bad JPEG-compression, that quantity on the paper is useless.

The images on this page have at most 1800x1200 pixels, what's far less than 2 (two) Megapixel. The 6 Megapixel of my D70 are enough to create great posters with 50x70cm. So forget any Megapixel-discussion when you look at the pictures only on a computer-monitor, television-screen or a 10x15cm print.

Just look at the next two pictures, taken in 2002 with a Sony Cybershot providing a raw resolution of 1600x1200 Pixels (1.9MPixels).

Cybershot, 1/500sec, f/8, ISO100

Cybershot, 1/100sec, f/2.5, ISO100

Some of the pictures on this site really do need some special gear, called lenses. Not because of resolution or sharpness, but for some parameters which you normally won't see in advertisements or brochures.

AF-n 28-85mm f/3.5-4.5

AF-S VR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF

One of these mystic things is called bokeh, which describes the behaviour of a lens in the out-of-focus areas. Some lenses don't produce real softness in these areas but some strange sharp edges in the background. If you're looking for great bokeh you'll have to invest some money in your lenses.

The two images above show the difference quite clearly. Location, illumination, motive, background (a crumbled aluminium foil), whitebalance and framing are identical, just the lens was changed (both stopped down one step). Another difference is a slight variation in color tone.

Another factor is distortion, the bending of straight lines going not through the center of the image. Especially with zoom-lenses it is normal to have some distortion varying with focal length. To compensate distortion the lens-manufacturer uses one or more non-spherical (aspherical) elements which are again expensive. When you need a wide-angle-lens for landscape or architecture images, you probably want to spend some extra money to get less distortion already from the camera.

Of course I've tried a lot, even with my old manual lenses. But using manual lenses on a digital body is not really for fun. Today my combination looks like this:

  • Nikon D750
    Some time ago I've upgraded to a Nikon D750. The primary reason for this decision were the superior low light capabilities compared to the D200. And the larger display is a nice addition as well. The price for this update obviously was the requirement for a decend lens upgrade as well to account for the full size chip. At least I now can re-use my 16mm fisheye lens, which didn't made much sense with DX format chips.
  • Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70 mm 1:2.8E ED VR
    This heavyweight lens was a necessary upgrade to replace the DX 17-55 and provides the same zoom range, just for a FX sensor. I won't repeat my comments regarding the optical qualities, since its rather similar to the 17-55 (see below) with one noteworthy difference. To my surprise the 24-70 produces significantly more distortion compared to the 17-55. Nothing which can't be corrected easily or hurts for portraits and similar, but its an additional step and worth to consider if you intend to do architectural photography with this lens.
    As a big benefit this lens as VR functionality, which I'll probably once I had it.
  • Nikon AF-S VR 70-200mm/2.8G IF-ED
    Not only the weight of this lens is impressive. Sharpness and bokeh is superior to any other lens I have or had. An aperture of f/2.8 in combination with the shake-reduction makes this lens my first choice for any live shootings. VR works that well, that you can get sharp images even when walking. Remember, you get 300mm effective focal length with this lens!
  • Micro Nikkor 105mm/2.8
    Micro Nikkor 55mm/2.8
    These pretty old, manual-focus macro lenses are still in use, but normally in combination with some speedlight or tripod, since you have to stop down some steps to get more than a few millimeters depth of field. Using in manual-mode with the camera's builtin speedlight you'll get a pretty controlled illumination even without metering.
  • Fisheye Nikkor 16mm/2.8 AI-s
    I'm really happy not not have sold this one while I'm operating with DX format sensors. In contrast to fisheye lenses with shorter focal range, this one still fills the full sensor, what makes handling pretty simple. It really is fun to play with on the D750, but not a daily lens, though.
  • Kenko Teleplus Pro 300 DG 2x Teleconverter
    This teleconverter accompanies the 70-200VR. This converter is great, since image quality is not degraded on the D70. You'll notice some softness on the D200 due to the higher pixel-resolution. Of course this cost you 2 stops and with two additional stops for some more depth of field you end up at f/11. To get sharp images under this conditions with effective 600mm focal length you'll need good conditions even with the VR-system.
  • NoiseNinja from PictureCode
    One of the principle problems with digital cameras is noise. Depending on the situation, exposure time and ISO-setting noise is more or less visible. When fiddling around with the images afterwards noise can be oddly amplified. Candidates for this is changing brightness, contrast, color-correction and any kind of sharpening-filter.
    There are a lot of tools around to reduce noise in your images, which work more or less effective. I've tried several and finally choosed NoiseNinja (Nov. 2004). You have complete control how NoiseNinja changes your image and results are very subtle when set correctly. Additionally it works with 16-Bit-images and can be automated using Photoshop-actions.
    NoiseNinja actually comes first my workflow with a very gentle setting for nearly any images, which makes room for following adjustments.
  • FocusMagic from Acclaim Software
    Similar as my camera does not produce any noise, any image taken is perfectly sharp. At least as long as you never seen FocusMagic in action. Contrary to the usual unsharp-mask, which simply enhances edges and quikly produces nasty artefacts, FocusMagic removes softness mathematically. Sometimes you can see Details clearly, which are barely noticeable before. Especially when preparing images for the computer-screen you'll get softness within a 1-pixel-range which can perfectly being eliminated with FocusMagic.
    The same algorithms can be used to correct one-dimensional softness, which emerges from camera shake. Don't expect big wonders, but your blurred images surely get better.
  • PanoramaStudio from Tobias Hüllmandel
    If you ever plan to create a panoramic image, you'll quickly notice that you can't do that only with an imaging application. That is because any lens produces some distortion and neighbored images never matches exactly, even when taken with a pricey panoramic mount.
    There are several applications out there to assist you in creation of such images. Some of them are a little hard to handle, others can create spherical panoramas. PanoramaStudion don't fit into those two categories and creates perfect panoramas via drag-and-drop, even when shot freehand. And when it won't fit automatically, there are several options for manual corrections later.
    Please note that for complex panoramic images you'll need a lot of memory. One image with 6 Megapixels need about 18MBytes in your RAM. A cylindrical 360 degree panorama from 10 images require at least 180MBytes only for the source-images. During the calculation this value easily doubles, so this would probably too much for a system with 512MBytes.

Earlier Equipment

  • Nikon D70
    Ok, when using a D70 you'll notice on several details that this body is designed for a low price. But as you can see from my examples, most images here came out of the D70 and you really can make great images with it. Maybe you'll have to adjust a little more depending on the situation.
    I am working in program-mode (P) or manual (M) and set all camera-optimizations to neutral (i.e. contrast) or off (i.e. sharpening). Only color-saturation is set to enhanced to get more intense, vivid images. In general I like those images more, if it is too much some time, you can simply reduce saturation afterwards. Of course this one is depending on the personal taste.
    Some of these settings require some more efford afterwards. But if the image will be cropped on the PC, you also can do some sharpening depending on the scenario etc.
    The images here are nearly unsharpened, I only compensated the slight softness from downsizing.
  • Nikon D200
    In the meantime a D200 body turn up in my foto-pocket. Of course, as I told you before, a D200 won't automatically produce better images, but some things are really simplyfied. One major thing is the improved metering-system which won't get easily fooled by glaring colors (like the D70 does), some optimization on automatic-functions like saturation and contrast (which I now can trust), a quality-controlled JPEG-compression and finally, essential for my longtime exposures, a mirror lock up. And for my high-ISO-shots I do welcome the nicer noise from the D200, since it is easier to handle.
    However, most of the images on this site came out of the D70.
  • Nikon AF-S DX 18-70mm/3.5-4.5G IF-ED
    This is a nice allround zoom. Of course it has some weaknesses in the wide- and tele-range, but for it's size and price this is absolutely ok.
    Actually the 18-70 was replaced by the heavyweight 17-55 below.
  • Nikon AF-S DX 12-24mm/4G IF-ED
    This lens is a must-have for every landscape-photographer. Due to the small DX-chip with a crop-factor of 1.5 you'll get real 18mm focal length with mostly neglectible distortion. It is far superior to the 18-70 in this range, concerning sharpness and chromatic errors both are nearly same. As with any wide-angle-lens it is not useful for getting natural images from persons or faces.
  • Nikon AF-S DX 17-55mm/2.8G IF-ED
    Let's get the point first, who expects a huge leap in optical performance compared to the 18-70 or 18-200, may probably somewhat disappointed by this lens, depending on your photographic demands. The kit-lenses already produce more sharpness with proper light and slightly stopped down as a camera like the D200 can reproduce. Don't expect any improvements here. The 17-55 additionally is not that perfect with chromatic aberrations or optical distortions at the wide end, as one would expect for such an expensive lens. Even those one or two stops more light are not that critical under normal situations (well, in dim light they are).
    But, of course, there are some applications where this lens is an absolute winner compared to the kit-lenses. The first point is this mostly uncompromising sharpness even wide open and in the edges. But the most important point for me is the wonderful bokeh from this lens. This makes this piece of glass my first choice for person- or portrait-photography. For pure portraits some more lenght may be helpful (i.e. the 28-70/2.8), but these additional 15mm are not that essential.
    And if you're using this lens for landscapes or architectural shots, there are bargain tools, like the USD 15,- PTLens, which corrects distortion and chromatic errors nearly invisible.